Apple Watch Activity Monitoring: a Demoralizing, Inconvenient Letdown

| January 7, 2017

rose series 2

My husband bought me an apple watch for Christmas. It was sweet of him. Unfortunately, I’ve had to return the watch because it just doesn’t have the capabilities I want. In fact, it’s as if Apple deliberately does not want the watch to have the capabilities that I – and many people – want out of a watch that monitors activity. I fully expected to like the Apple watch, but I was mistaken. So, while this isn’t typically a review blog, here’s my experience…

About the watch:  Apple Watch Series 2, 38mm Rose Gold Aluminum Case with Light Pink/Midnight Blue Woven Nylon Band

About me: I am a 41-year-old woman. I am not a technology whiz. I am capable of using technology–especially intuitive technology. I will take the time to research issues on my own, but only up until the point where I feel like way too much energy is being spent on trying to make something work for me.   I am not interested in having the latest gadget just to have the latest gadget. I’m function over fashion (actually, I’m dysfunction + no fashion).

About me and Apple products: I am an Apple user. I have iphones, ipads, am on my second or third Mac and my second or third Macbook, and I probably have an Apple brain chip that was inserted while I was wandering aimlessly at an Apple store. I am not new to Apple, and do not need to be convinced that Apple is great.

About me and fitness: I hate to exercise. My regular mode of exercise is a recumbent bike. I am not intrinsically motivated to hop up and run a marathon; I am intrinsically motivated to watch Golden Girls while facebooking. In fact, I use the recumbent bike because I can lean back, facebook, and watch Golden Girls.  The only reason I exercise is because I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 40’s.  I do not have fitness routines that require GPS tracking. I do require motivation; I want my activity monitor to motivate me.

dorothy and blanche. bea arthur and rue mclanahan.

My week with the Apple Watch

The look – It’s super cute, sleek, classy. I love the look.

Waterproof – This series is waterproof. This is awesome for someone who loves baths. I love baths.

Sadly, this is where my lovefest for the watch ends.

Communicating with other apps – The activity monitor does not import data from other sources, so you won’t be able to see fitness you entered into, for example, LoseIt; in fact, even if your iphone tracks steps while your watch is charging, the Apple watch will not import your steps. Can you see them combined on your iphone? Yes. Does your watch’s progress bar show the progress? No. So you could have two hours of a workout in LoseIt, but your watch won’t show that you’ve exercised at all; or your progress target could show that you aren’t anywhere near a step goal that your phone would confirm you’ve met. As someone who wants consolidation of information and personal motivation out of a watch, this is incredibly disappointing. Basically, this watch doesn’t do everything on its own, and then on top of it won’t import data from all of the other apps you end up downloading.

Motivation – See above. It’s not a motivating watch for me–it’s a demoralizing watch for me. That said, the progress bar target looks great. If Activity took all things into consideration, it would be incredibly motivating to look at those completed rings. I love the rings. The watch does let you set goals and reminders. For example, I was getting a reminder to stand up at least once an hour.

Sleep monitoring – Nope. You’d think it would be a built-in feature of a watch that’s measuring your heartbeat all the time, but no. It’s not. The advice online is to get a separate sleep tracker, so even though I found that annoying, I downloaded Sleep++. But here’s how ridiculous it is: When you forget to tell the watch that you’re done sleeping, it doesn’t intuitively ask if you’re done sleeping after it notices you’re, say, walking around for an hour (like the Jawbone does, for example). Instead, I have a record of me sleeping for 45 hours, with a 33-minute cycling workout halfway through. Really? If I could exercise while I slept, I’d have a knockout bod, because I loves me some sleep.

Holding a charge – The charge doesn’t last long. Period. You’re lucky to get 48 hours out of it. (You won’t get 48 hours out of it.) One thing I loved was the magnetic charger. Super-convenient. However, since you can’t manually enter activity that occurs while the watch is charging, you can say goodbye to having that data in your activity monitor. Have you noticed a trend? The Activity app is basically unwilling to accept anything if it hasn’t personally touched your wrist during the activity.

Price – Here’s the deal: if the watch had better activity monitoring capabilities, the price would be absolutely reasonable. Since it does not have the capabilities I personally seek, I find it to be waaaaaay overpriced. When I first saw the price, I thought, Huh, that’s not too expensive for a little computer on your wrist. Now, I think, Huh, what the hell are they doing with those couple extra hundred dollars?

Apps – Okay, it was cool to have my messages pop up on my watch (but other watches do that).  It was cool to be able to open an email, check the news, etc. It was neat to see the watch face with all the tiny apps.  But it wasn’t so cool that I was willing to overlook all of the watch’s drawbacks.

Setup – Setup wasn’t overly difficult. It was especially easy since I used the support service half-hour phone session. (If you get an Apple Watch, my recommendation is to pair it with your phone before the session so that your whole session can be hands-on familiarization with the watch.) Unfortunately, my husband and I have spent cumulative hours since then, trying to get the watch to do what I want it to do–only to find that the watch is not going to do what I want it to do.

Summary – Just Say No to the Apple Watch until they get their act together and accept that people want a more comprehensive, intuitive, consolidated, motivational activity monitor. This was a huge letdown, and was actually stress-inducing as I continually felt frustrated by the lack of capabilities. There’s nothing the watch currently offers that outweighs everything that a fitness watch can do. I’d rather have an iphone and a fitness watch, each with robust capabilities, than a half-assed watch that isn’t offering anything near what the phone and fitness watch offer together. I get that Apple is not trying to be another fitness watch, but by refusing to offer all of the fitness watch capabilities, they’re forcing people to choose between two watches. Apple isn’t even close to being my choice.

I used to have the Jawbone (UP). While I was generally satisfied with its capabilities, the bracelet itself was not well-made.   I had to return two bracelets that did not withstand minor wear and tear. I now see that they’ve discontinued that particular bracelet. If I weren’t looking for a motivating watch face, I would get a new Jawbone. I loved its sleep tracking capability.

I’m about to try out the FitBit, which my husband is currently using. This is the one I’m looking at. If I’m not feeling lazy, I’ll let you know how it goes.


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About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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